I remember reading the Bible for the very first time: I was 19 years old, just graduated high school and taking a year off before heading to University. Around this time, I was also questioning everything about my life.
I was seeking for something deeper to live for, for meaning and purpose, for something compelling enough to die for. Life seemed too mundane to me, a bit too shallow. There had to be more to life than going to school, getting a career, starting a family, retiring, and eventually, well…dying.
So where did I go to find answers?
Books…And YouTube videos, but mostly books, anything to help me understand life better. I figured that the more I knew about the world, the better I would understand it, and the better prepared I would be to make a difference.
Knowledge is Power?
“Knowledge is power” was the mantra I lived by. The more I knew, the more power I would have to influence others. That was my mentality when I first picked up the Bible. I read it to attain information. I saw it as a gold mine for timeless knowledge and wisdom about life.
However, I soon realized that the Bible was more than just that. There was something different about it, something that separated it from every other book I’ve ever read: It was the very words of God. And it didn’t take many years of research for me to realize this.
It was obvious.
It was self-authenticating. No mere human has the ability to articulate the words I was reading. The authors of the Bible were clearly inspired by God as I later confirmed through scripture (2 Peter 1:19-21) and application to my own life.
The scriptures penetrated my heart the more I studied. And with the help and support of Godly men, I gained more understanding of scripture and the conviction to surrender all aspects of my life to Jesus.
Although I’ve been a Christian for 7 years, I still need to remind myself that application is much more important than information. I remember a conversation with my girlfriend (Now my wife) a few years ago. It went something like this:
Me: Can you imagine 20 years from now how much knowledge of the scriptures we’ll have?
Lisa: That’s true…And?
Me: We are going to know so much! 20 years of reading the bible, we’ll be able to just quote scriptures from the top of our heads…
Lisa: Right, right…but I really don’t think it’s all about how much we know. It’s more about how we apply what we know to our lives.
Me: hmm…good point.
Information Without Application is Useless
I don’t think I will ever forget that conversation. It had such an impact on the way I approach the scriptures. I was humbled, challenged, and inspired to approach God’s word with the right mind and heart.
Think about it: information without application is the reason Jesus often clashed with the religious leaders of His day. They knew a whole lot. They studied the scriptures diligently; they quoted them with ease; But they often failed to apply what they knew to their hearts.
Now am I saying that the pursuit of knowledge is wrong?
Of course not. Far from it! As followers of Jesus we are called to be students. Growth in our knowledge of the scriptures is essential, but we can’t stop there. Gathering information without applying it, is well… useless.
Information plus Application is Life Changing
Information plus application is life changing in every arena of life. Homework, sports, music, you name it! Applying what you know or what you’ve been taught is the only way to grow and change, and this is especially true when it comes to faith.
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.” – James 1:22-24
If you were to look into a mirror right after getting out of bed, I’m sure you’ll see some things you need to change before leaving your house. You might need to wash your face, brush your hair, shave, put make up on, whatever you do in the morning before leaving your house.
Imagine seeing all that, but still choosing to leave your house without fixing your appearance.
Similarly, the bible serves as a spiritual mirror, exposing our flaws, yet also providing a way for us to become more like Jesus.
For this reason, James calls us to move beyond simply reading scripture for the sake of reading scripture. Reading without application is deceiving. You fool yourself because you listen to what God says, but you live your life as if you never heard His words.
So my prayer for all followers of Jesus is that we do our very best to apply scripture to our lives, that we allow God’s word to enter our hearts and transform us from the inside out. It’s the only way for us to become more like Jesus, the only way to experience life change, and the only way to impact the world around us.